Parishes: West Hythe

Pages 254-258

The History and Topographical Survey of the County of Kent: Volume 8. Originally published by W Bristow, Canterbury, 1799.

This free content was digitised by double rekeying. All rights reserved.


In this section


LIES the next adjoining parish south-westward from the township and parish of Hythe, last-described. It was at first called simply Hythe, and in after times Old Hythe, (fn. 1) in comparison of the new and more prosperous town which rose out of its ruins, but more usually West Hythe, from its situation westward of it. Great part of this parish is a member of the town and port of Hythe, and within the jurisdiction of the justices of it, the liberty of which and of the cinque ports claim over so much of it; the residue, being the north-west part, in which the church stood, is within the hundred of Worth, and jurisdiction of the justices of the county. The manor of Wye extends over a small part of this parish.

This place seems to have been but of small consequence, whilst the neighbouring harbour of Limne remained in a flourishing state; but when that was deserted by the sea, and the ships by that means hindered from coming to it, this haven of West Hythe succeeded in turn, and became the usual resort for shipping in its stead, and the town here increased in proportion as that of Limne decayed. But this was of no long duration, for the sea continuing to decrease from this coast, after no great length of time, left this haven likewise so choaked up with beach and sand, that it became entirely useless, and the shipping were necessicated to stop eastward at Hythe, the haven of which then became the usual resort in the room of it; but the same inconstancy of that fluctuating element prevailed after some time there too, and destroyed that harbour in like manner, by withdrawing its waters from it, so that now the sea does not flow near it for the space of near half a mile, nor to this place for three times that distance.

The particular times of the destruction of these havens, by the sea deserting them, has never been ascertained. That of Limne was after the Romans had left this island, and it must have been during the time of the Saxons, perhaps in their earliest time here; for in the reign of king Edward the Consessor, this of West Hythe was become of such resort and consequence, that it was esteemed as one of the cinque ports. From which time the town is said to have greatly increased, insomuch that Leland seems to infer that it in some measure reached all along the shore, to where the substance of Hythe now is, as one of the same town, in which there were three churches besides this of Our Lady of West Hythe, the ruins of which, as well as the church-yards, remained in his time; and although there is great probability of the truth of these circumstances, yet there is no mention of them by any one else, any more than there is, that this town of West Hythe, where the ruins of the church then remained, was more particularly that which was burnt along the shore in the reign of Richard II. as has been already fully related before. When this haven of West Hythe was rendered useless, and that of Hythe, eastward of it, resorted to in its stead, has only been conjectured; but most probably it was not long before the Norman conquest, at which time lord Coke says, Hythe was added to the other ports, which I should apprehend means the present port, in the room of the old one of West Hythe, which thenceforward became only a member to the new one. Some place the Roman port, called Portus Lemanis, at West Hythe, and others at Hythe; among the latter is Baxter, forming their conjectures from the derivation of the name; but neither of these places are of sufficient antiquity for this purpose, and however the learned may disagree where that port was, they in general agree, that it was not at either of these places.

The parish lies on the ridge of quarry or sand hills, and extends below them westward as far as Botolphs bridge, now vulgarly called Butters bridge, the two houses near which are within the bounds of it, and southward quite to the sea shore between the parishes of Hythe and Dimchurch. There is no village; but there are about fifteen straggling houses, and the ruins of the church, at the foot of the hill, close to the marsh grounds. Several large thriving elms grow near the foot of the hill, going down to the church; a tree very rare indeed near this place.

It is within the ECCLESIASTICAL JURIDICTION of the diocese of Canterbury, and deanry of Limne.

The church, which was dedicated to the blessed Virgin Mary, has been long since in ruins; it appears to have been very small, and consisted of one small isle, and a still smaller chancel. The west, north, and part of the south walls are standing. The arch between the isle and chancel is gothic, as is that of the door at the west end, over which is an arch of Roman brick, but not the work of that people; there is a small window likewise in the south wall, turned with the same brick, but of modern work. It probably fell to decay at the very latter end of king Henry VII. or beginning of king Henry VIII.'s reign; for in the 17th year of the former, Robert Beverlye, vicar, was buried in the choir of it; and when Leland wrote, about the middle of the latter reign, about forty years afterwards, he represents it as then in ruins.

This church is a vicarage, in the patronage of the archdeacon of Canterbury, who has likewise the appropriation of the great tithes. In the 8th year of king Richard II. this vicarage was valued at four pounds, and on account of the smallness of its income, not taxed to the tenth. It is valued in the king's books at 8l. 14s. 4½d. and the yearly tenths at 17s. 5¼d. In 1588 here were communicants fiftythree; in 1640, forty; and it was valued at fortyfour pounds. Before the civil wars of king Charles I. there was paid twelve-pence an acre to the vicar for marsh-land in this parish; but the incumbent, to ingratiate himself with the parishioners, abated twopence per acre; so that there has been only tenpence paid ever since.

The christenings, marriages, burials, and other occasional duties, are performed at Limne church, for which the vicar pays to the vicar of Limne an annual acknowledgment.

This vicarage is now of about twenty-seven pounds clear annual income.

Church of West Hythe.

Patrons, Vicars.
Or by whom presented.
Archdeacon of Canterbury. William Merricke, Sept. 23, 1595, obt. 1610. (fn. 2)
James Hyrst, A. M. May 29, 1610, resigned 1615.
Barnaby Pownall, Dec. 20, 1615, resigned 1629.
William Kennet, A. M. July 25, 1629, obt. 1633.
Stephen Sackett, A. M. Nov. 9, 1633, obt. 1679.
William Coleman, clerk, May 10, 1679.
William Newton, March 12, 1719, resigned 1732. (fn. 3)
John Sackett, A. M. June 16, 1732, obt. 1753. (fn. 4)
William Howdell, A. M. 1753, the present vicar.


  • 1. See Leland's Itinerary, vol. vi. p. II.
  • 2. See Harleian MSS. No.6997.
  • 3. Likewise curate of Wingham. He wrote the Antiquities of Maidstone. He resigned this vicarage on being presented to the rectory of Gillingham, in Dorsetshire.
  • 4. See Folkestone, of which parish he was likewise curate.